“In my heart, entertaining is a souvenir of life, a gift we give our friends and family.”
And in my family, growing up Southern was all about entertaining. If we weren’t planning a party we were enjoying memories of the last one or looking for an excuse for the next. With such a focus on bringing friends together, it was imperative early on that I discover truths and short cuts about entertaining.
One of the great pleasures of building a home is creating a place for everything in an easily accessible spot. And it’s especially true about entertaining. I have secret closets in the rooms where we dine that hold party chairs hung Shaker style up the walls; another pair of narrow, deep closets hide the requisite 54” round folding tables; and yet another displays a sundry collection of candles, to include the “lucifer” to snuff out the candles on the chandeliers.
The same is true of getting ready for a party. Whether it’s “Bellinis and Blossoms in the Garden” (in the summer) or “French Picnic by the Fireside” (in the winter) my china closet is one of my three favorite go-to closets — some pieces were inherited, others were wedding gifts long ago and some were found in treks through antique shops and bazaars around the world. With each comes a memory, adding to the pleasure of entertaining.
When you reflect back upon those defining moments in life when design impressions were imprinted upon your brain and your psyche, never to be lost! One of the pleasures of clocking so many hours in this life is the number of times you can say, “I’ll never forget…” These are some, all the more precious because they come immediately to mind. And bring a smile to my face.
~ My mother’s designer-of-the-moment shoes ( Herbert Levine, Andrew Geller) in glorious fabrications….watered-silk taffeta, cut velvet, peau de soie. I adored going into her bedroom and opening her closets, just transfixed.
~ The town houses and rooftops of London for the sets of the play Peter Pan. I was only 4, but that love of classical architecture was planted firmly in my psyche.
~ Creating fairy rooms ( with moss, twigs, acorns, feathers, pebbles) within the roots of my grandmother’s ancient oak tree.
~ Painting canvas over cloths to match the border on the invitations to our 25th wedding anniversary dinner dance; friends would stop by throughout the day, picking up a paint brush and sharing the experience ( and of course a bit of gossip.)
~ My parent’s annual day-after-Christmas cocktail buffet party ( my mother just couldn’t bear to see Christmas go) … turkey curry with 11 condiments, a Chinese salad, thinly sliced Smithfield ham, fruit cake.
~ Matisse’s famous painting “The Red Room” in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. I was on a college tour and that incredible shade of magenta was riveting; just a few years ago I planted a new peony tuber and to my utter delight the flower is exactly that “Matisse magenta!”
~ Discovering a euphoric view on this island…on Ocean Drive, on the hill at the Cushing’s, looking across at John Russell Pope’s masterpiece, “the Waves.”
~ Sharing my mother’s favorite time of the day, twilight. Or L’Heure Bleue, as the old French perfume was called; their ad copy says it so romantically….”when the sun has set but night has not yet found its star.”
Things I Love
Before going to sleep…reading a special note from a friend that I’ve left on my beside table for this little ritual.
I’m never too busy to…hug my husband or my 2 cats.
I love someone who…doesn’t take themselves too seriously. I have a friend who lives in a small summer cottage, around the corner from the Preservation Society’s Chateau-sur-Mer; with a nod to this grand dame, she has called her simple home “Ranch-sur-Mer.”
My day starts …early, with a stroll in the garden, clippers and sketch/note pad in hand.
When returning from a trip…I drop my bags in the mud room, and immediately head to the garden to cut whatever catches my eye, then scurrying back to the house to arrange them, savoring the moment when I choose which of many various containers I’ll use for the waiting blooms.
I save… invitations, to write notes on the backsides; recycling in its highest form. And when I turn them over, I can also be reminded of a happy occasion.
Be inspired to change my mind…for years I didn’t favor dahlias; now they are one of my favorite flowers. I’m trying to master bringing them along early to plant in mid-spring. Not only are the selections so diverse, covering the full color range and shapes, but they are so serviceable, blooming up to the last frost.
My day is not complete without…hand-writing a note to someone.